The lovely CONNECTED FARMSTEADS of New England
When I am inundated with fast-food chain stores, used-car lots and shopping malls my stress level goes berserk and I feel faintly ill ...not enough to call the doctor but just enough to make me aware that something is out of whack. I’ve come to realize that that “something” is SPEED.
Our efficient life style is fraught with computers, cell phones, digital cameras and every other work-saver gadget known to man. It literally takes my breath away. I feel squeezed and wrung out at the end of an ordinary day where speed is the norm. I yearn to go where the pace is SLOW.
In August of 2002 I did just that. I spent the month traversing the back roads of New England, wending my way slowly through Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The countryside was lush and pastoral and the days were long. Of course I basked in the warmth and peace of the drive, but my eyes were always searching for the delightful connected farm buildings that dotted the countryside. They were a constant source of surprise and I loved them.
These structures date back to the 19th century and there is a child’s verse that describes them perfectly: “Big House, Back House, Little House, Barn”. It is possible to walk from the main house (the parlor, dining area and bedrooms) through the “little” house (kitchen and wood shed) through the “back” house (privy and storage or workshop) to the barn without ever going outside.
There are two theories for this connected arrangement. One theory is that a family could exist through the extreme winter snows without having to go outside to get to any of the buildings. The other premise holds that the thrifty New England farmer figured he could eliminate 3 walls by connecting the buildings!
I became fascinated with these add-on homesteads during my journey and especially with the fact that no two of them were alike. Some of the homes were imposing Colonials connected to the smaller buildings, but usually it was the barn that dominated the grouping. The animals were valuable assets to a working farm and it made sense that they would be cared for as well, or better, than the family.
I spent day after day on those New England back roads and every time that I spied a connected farm complex I would slow down or stop. Although it was August and a warm breeze caressed my cheek I would envision this same scene blanketed in snow. This gave me a feeling of snugness, safety and contentment. Now, when I feel the need I just bring back those memories and it never fails to slow me down.